Disney EchoEar Grand Mouseter
Joined: April 1992
||Posted: Feb. 07, 2013, 5:57 am
Sorry to make you wade through a chat form at the link, but MiceAge.com is reporting Imagineer Tony Baxter is stepping down from that position and will become an "advisor" to the unit of The Walt Disney Company famous for designing theme parks, rides, hotels, restaurants, cruise ships, hotel resorts and Disney Vacation Club timeshare resorts and more.
Any deep down long time devoted Disney fan knows the pedestal Imagineering is on in the Disney fan community, how Walt Disney transformed animators into park and attraction designers and that Tony Baxter is one of the "rock stars" of the contemporary Imagineering era among Disney fans, a man who sees it all as "what would Walt have done" and puts heart into his attraction design work.
Two things Tony designed: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and the reopened restored Castle Walk Through at Disneyland, among others.
At any and all Disneyana shows Tony would captivate Disney fans with stories of Walt and the design process, making basically building, building materials, story, theme, construction and engineering come alive and, well, be far from boring and geeky. Make it, well, "magical".
When Imagineers do public speaking to Disney fans it can be inspiring. Lots of young people while in school are interested in theme park design and building, and see Imagineering for Disney as a career goal.
But in recent times in the Disney fan community Tony's career took a back seat. The theme parks didn't open new attractions yearly as maybe happened more often in Walt's era or in the post-mid 1980s Eisner Disney revitalization era. They moved more to time share resorts and cruise lines, and doing worldwide parks in Paris, Shanghai and Hong Kong. After Michael Eisner left as CEO and Robert Iger came in in 2004 you started hearing Iger lift up Walt's vision less and talk about Disney going in "new directions" more. John Lasseter of Pixar was placed as head of Imagineering, he too is a "What would Walt have done?" type of internal Disney fan, but also he came from Pixar and we started seeing even before 2004-2005 the Pixarification of the Disney theme parks. Now with Disney owning Marvel and Lucasfilms we can probably see on the horizon the "Marvelization" and "Star Warsification" of Disney parks, along with the still on the burners proposition of an Avatarland at Disney parks. Nowadays, as fun prospects for those fans as an Avatar-Marvel-Star Wars promotion of those things might be in Disney parks, you also have to use binoculars and magnifying glasses to try to spy the "pure Disney" any more in the parks. Even remodeling or "re-imagining" Pirates of the Caribbean rides to include Captain Jack Sparrow, Barbossa and Davy Jones could be seen as a dilution of a ride created by Imagineer-Animator Marc Davis. Theme park operators want high fun for low budget in order to maximize profits, and detailed stories cost more money and take away from profits and are more to maintain which adds to costs owners prefer to avoid, and stories told via design elements in lines you wait in before you board the ride become less important when everyone wants a FastPass instead especially a FastPass you can arrange for before you leave home, skip the lines, and in a low-information era people no longer take the time to "understand the story of the ride" before they ride it. What's being built? DVC resorts and Disney Shanghai. What's being fixed and maintained? At WDW not much, and it's getting to be embarrassing. Maybe the new park president there can spend money and turn that around....
So the "What would Walt have done?" fans internally at Disney are aging, retiring, "stepping down", becoming "advisors". Maybe also seeing handwriting on the wall for the future if they stay. Maybe knowing in retirement they can write and go on the Disney fan circuit. There are two Disney fan circuits: D23 which Disney frankly owns, and controls. And The Disneyana Fan Club, an independent fan group, non-profit social, which holds an annual meeting in California of Disney fans who are hobbyist memorabilia collectors. Tony Baxter can write a book the Disney fan community would eat up. Tony can also wait for a non-compete clause to time out, maybe a year or so from now, and attempt to work for a theme park operator competitor or freelance or open his own design firm, he has a famous high quality "name" and can market his own brand.
Read this Topic at Mice Age.com. Tony's official letter is posting#21. Sad to see Tony Baxter step down. Farewell, Tony, and from a fan thanks for all you've done for Disney.... fans appreciate it a lot, and we'll all miss you. Best wishes for the future!